System Builder Marathon, June 2010: $1,000 Enthusiast PC

CPU, Motherboard, And Cooler

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition OEM

Squeezing an enthusiast-class build into our $1,000 target is a difficult task, especially when our goal is to put the lion’s share of cash into the graphics subsystem. We need to find a CPU with a sub-$100 price tag, but with the potential to run with the big boys. This price range is solid AMD territory and we considered triple- and quad-core Athlon II models, but we chose the Phenom II X3 720.

Read Customer Reviews of AMD's Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition OEM

The Phenom II X3 720 has a few high-end features going for it, including an unlocked CPU multiplier and 6MB of L3 cache. But despite these features, the OEM model sports a very reasonable $90 price tag. On top of this, there’s a good chance we’ll be able to unlock the processor’s dormant CPU core and transform the X3 720 into a full-fledged quad-core Phenom II X4.

Motherboard: MSI 790X-G45

Read Customer Reviews of MSI's 790X-G45

Our lofty CrossFire graphics goal requires dual x8 PCI Express (PCIe) slots at the very least, and our lower budget forces us to look hard at AMD’s 790X and 790GX chipsets. In the end, we selected MSI’s 790X entry because of its low $100 price tag and good overclocking reputation.

CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3

Read Customer Reviews of Cooler Master's Hyper TX3

Once again, our low budget becomes the deciding factor in our hardware choice, and with an OEM CPU, we don’t have the option to use a stock cooler. Fortunately, Cooler Master’s Hyper TX3 has a measly $20 impact on our available funds, yet does a much better job than any bundled cooler would. The Hyper TX3 has served us well in other low-budget applications, and its Socket AM3/LGA 1156  flexibility comes in handy.

  • alikum
    When you say SBM: Enthusiast System, I am expecting this to be more than just another gaming rig. You may have your own reason for sticking to a Phenom II x3 720 and HD5830 crossfire but I believe a Phenom II x4 955 and HD5770 crossfire would make more sense or more well-balanced (instead of trying your luck by unlocking cores). In fact, we could also grab a HD5870 and downgrade our mobo a little and that would make a truly well balanced enthusiast system.
  • scrumworks
    Nice CPU choice you morons. My grandma could build a more balanced system.
  • manitoublack
    I'm with one-shot, 6core AMD for $200 can't be beat.
  • one-shot
    It would have been nice to see the PII X6 1055T with a moderate downgrade in GPUs to afford the higher cost of CPU and motherboard. The i7 embarrasses the PII X3.
  • adbat
    I find it surprising that you are always successful in unlocking the 4th core
  • IzzyCraft
    not a fan of the 5830's or the 720 cpu choice is all.

    Would have rather seen a dual 5770's or a 5870 with a i5-750 or a 955

    games more and more are using cpu for doing things. I also tend to use a comp for other things more then games.
  • Tamz_msc
    Bad choice of components especially CPU and GPU
  • Tamz_msc
    A phenom II 955 BE:160$+2 Xfx hd 5770sfor320$+GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H for 140$=620$ would certainly have been a better choice than your 670$ for CPU+GPU+mobo.
  • Tamz_msc
    Tamz_mscA phenom II 955 BE:160$+2 Xfx hd 5770s for 320$+GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H for 140$=620$ would certainly have been a better choice than your 670$ for CPU+GPU+mobo.
  • The Lady Slayer
    A Thermaltake V3 instead of the Antec 300 would have saved you $15